Preps Talk

With commitment to Duke, Whitney Young's D.J. Steward becomes Chicago's biggest high school star since Jalen Brunson

With commitment to Duke, Whitney Young's D.J. Steward becomes Chicago's biggest high school star since Jalen Brunson

Whitney Young senior guard DJ Steward ended his whirlwind recruitment on Wednesday as he verbally committed to Duke and head coach Mike Krzyzewski with a video announcement on Twitter.

The 6-foot-3 Steward gives the Blue Devils a major perimeter threat who can score, handle and distribute as he's coming off of a monster summer that saw him push for five-star national status. Steward becomes the second Whitney Young star this decade to commit to the Blue Devils, following in the footsteps of former Dolphins center Jahlil Okafor. While Okafor was a known national prospect as a high school freshman who eventually helped Duke to a national championship in his only season in Durham, Steward had to work hard over the summer before his senior year to earn an offer from the blueblood program.

Duke only showed interest in Steward during his early years but picked things up rapidly after the Nike Peach Jam in early July when they offered Steward a scholarship. Steward's recruitment was effectively sealed last week when Krzyzewski and three Duke assistant coaches -- including lead recruiter and former Glenbrook North star Jon Scheyer -- showed up to Whitney Young's first open gym of the fall. An official visit to Durham last weekend ended Steward's recruitment despite long-standing interest from schools like Illinois, Louisville and Texas -- among many others.

As Duke and Krzyzewski have been engaged in a decade-long battle with Kentucky and head coach John Calipari over five-star prospects and the nation's top college basketball recruiting class, the Chicagoland area hasn't seen much of the nation's top two recruiting programs.

Steward's commitment changes things. His pledge to Duke makes him the Chicagoland area's biggest high school basketball star since Jalen Brunson graduated from Stevenson in 2015. 

Brunson was the state's last McDonald's All-American in 2015 as the state of Illinois has seen an unprecedented drought with top-flight basketball talent the past few years. Other area stars have committed to big programs and been ranked in the national top 100. But the name-brand of Duke Basketball and Coach K resonates with even the most casual of sports fans. 

The commitment to Duke from Steward, along with Whitney Young's status as perhaps the state's best team this season, should lead to a lot of excitement from area basketball fans. The Dolphins will be a hot ticket in their numerous showcase games. It also helps that Steward has been a known varsity performer since his freshman season at Fenwick. In his first season of varsity basketball, Steward became an instant must-see attraction after a perfect 10-for-10 shooting performance in a Class 3A state-title game loss to Morgan Park. Steward is one of the rare players to make a major impact in both the Chicago Catholic League and Chicago Public League during his high school career.

An NBC Sports Chicago All-Area selection during his sophomore season at Fenwick and junior season at Whitney Young (following his transfer), Steward has positioned himself as the favorite to win Mr. Basketball entering his final season. If Steward can complete his high school career with a state title -- which has eluded him to this point -- then he'll have one of the most storied careers in recent IHSA history thanks to his big numbers, winning ways and national reputation.

Coupled with Morgan Park senior guard Adam Miller's monster junior season (and lofty national ranking of his own) and it could be one of the most memorable seasons of basketball in the Chicago Public League in the past decade.

High School Lites Week 2 basketball roundup

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

High School Lites Week 2 basketball roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great basketball action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CSNPreps for all of the latest IHSA basketball scores and highlights.

Windy City Legends: Kendrick Nunn

Team of the Week: Catalyst Maria Soccer

Athlete of the Week: Halle Douglass

Friday's scores:

Stevenson 57, Zion-Benton 44

No. 8 Evanston 50, New Trier 40

Homewood-Flossmoor 63, Lincoln-Way Central 31

No. 14 Thornton 58, Rich Central 34

No. 4 Whitney Young 56, No. 11 Lincoln Park 50

Loyola 34, Notre Dame 31

Homewood-Flossmoor 63, Lincoln-Way Central 31

Francis W. Parker 55, Latin 47

GIRLS: Evanston 59, New Trier 33

 

Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

Mather 61, Foreman 57

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos wins SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition award

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos wins SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition award

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos said he’d never been surprised, until the day the school, his players and even family from Chile let him know he won the SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition Award.

“It means a lot to me because of the recognition we have for the kids,” Burgos said. “As I try to think all in, and think about this, I think my initial inclination is to think about them, about the fact that what we’re doing is seen, that their hard work will pay off and those values that I’m trying to instill in them are reaching them. And I’m very humbled about the whole experience.

"I’ve never been thanked publicly and it’s new, but it’s obviously something positive for the community, which the work I do is centered around.”

The school held a ceremony to honor Burgos, whose nomination bested more than 300 others to win. His team at Catalyst Maria won $2,500. Burgos’ friend and former colleague, Joel Farran, nominated him for his countless works in the community. Just some of the acts Burgos was noted for in the nomination include helping facilitate college scholarships for students, building relationships for students who were struggling to find proper housing, reaching out to students on the middle school levels, inviting parents to come together through events like potluck picnics and organizing a tournament for sixth through eighth-grade students as a way to provide a safe and fun environment for local children.

“He puts people first, and he puts people before himself, and he’s all about elevating others,” Farran said. “Whether it’s on the field or off the field, soccer is just one of the ways he does that. But it is the way he knows best. And it’s about creating opportunities — not only on the field — but when you fail on the field, learning to adjust from that and create solutions, but off the field, creating opportunities for scholar-athletes to continue to excel.”

Burgos’ students agree.

“He’s more than just a coach,” soccer player Alondra Gonzalez said. "He’s like another father-figure to me. When it comes to coaching, he does more than beyond. He created a webpage so everyone could see us. He created a ‘Go Fund Me’ [page] so we could have money for our uniforms, like jackets, because we play in the cold, and he wants us to do a lot more than just play and practice almost every day to be better.”

Another student-athlete, Angel Santillan, said Burgos is an “amazing person.”

“He means everything to me,” Santillan said. "Like the sport, it’s just a passion that he does everything for us. It’s a great experience to be coached by Mr. B. He’s just an amazing coach and he does everything for us.”

Three-time Olympian Kara Winger presented Burgos with the award, as a representative of TrueSport.

“Coach Burgos is clearly taking the time and effort to make a difference in these kids’ lives,” Winger said. “I was very blessed to have amazing coaches growing up who taught me how to be not only the best athlete I could be, but to be the best person I could be, and it’s clearly his mission here at Catalyst Maria schools, so TrueSport is so excited to honor him with the Champion Coach Award.”

Burgos, who was visibly moved by the surprise celebration, said he appreciated his work being recognized.

“I know there’s a lot of joy when you give, when you simply give without thinking about what’s going to happen next,” he said. “I do it because it’s the way that I continue to grow; it keeps me alive. I think we humans are here on Earth to take care of each other, to respect each other, to love each other, to cheer each other up. And those are values that I defend, and I have defended always.

"And now that I’m here, and I see that they are recognized, it validates what I knew. It will ultimately — if you are kind to people, if you’re loving, this is what happens. And it’s wonderful to see it for myself.”